by Yuan Ling, translated by Jack Hargreaves
I alight at Beigao bus station and cut through the tunnel under the airport expressway. Tractors and tricycle carts trundle past me beneath the low ceiling – entirely another world to the one atop the bridge.
I cross a trash-strewn area and continue alongside the dry and scorch marked grass verge. I can see the pair of stone lions that guard the nursing home gate. A kiosk sits right inside as a reminder for visitors to buy something.
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The translators, Jessie and David Cowhig and Ross Perlin, have deftly captured the two registers of Liao the poet and Liao the dissident, resulting in dramatic combinations of expressive and earthy language. The raw realities of incarceration (“diarrhea-filled days in such a small space, with all those bastards, skin sticking to skin, reeking ass next to reeking ass”) abut meditations on righteousness, such as Liao’s fantasy of building a monument to China’s tens of millions of ideological criminals, each individual represented by a tear-drop shaped crystal: “Seen from a distance, it won’t look like a monument but like a mountain gleaming with the cold light of eternal tears, one piled on top of another.”
Tencent’s digital publishing platform branch, Chinese Literature, will license and release 40 Star Wars novels in the country for the first time, which will be available for free for a limited time to readers. The company will also commission an “authentic Star Wars story with Chinese characteristics”, written by Chinese Literature’s in-house author “His Majesty the King.”* According to the Weibo post, the story will “bring in Chinese elements and unique Chinese storytelling methods.”
China’s tech firms are trying a variety of methods to remove the translation bottleneck. Webnovel says it has hired a team of more than 200 translators — which it pays directly — and has established a centralized glossary for frequently used terms to make sure the English versions remain consistent.
Many of these contracted workers, however, are not full-time and often struggle with the pressure of juggling two jobs. Oon Hong Wen, a Singaporean translator who signed a contract with Webnovel in June 2017, says he gets up at 6 a.m. to work for two hours before heading to the office and then continues after dinner until 1 a.m.
“Translators are just like authors,” says Oon. “Every day, we open our eyes and think about updating chapters.”
More fascinating insights into language from Michelle Deeter
By David Haysom, October 10, '19
As you may have heard, Paper Republic is now registered in the UK as a charity, and we think that’s something to celebrate!
If you’re if in the UK, we’d love for you to join us at 6.30pm on Friday November 29th at the Coach and Horses (29 Greek Street, London, W1D 5DH) to spend an evening with translators, authors, publishers, readers, and other friends of Paper Republic.
By Bruce Humes, October 8, '19
The new emperor’s Belt & Road Initiative has already resulted in scores of contracts for highways, railways and port construction in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and even East Africa. Perhaps less well known is the PRC's solidly financed soft power campaign that aims to create or translate, publish and disseminate texts in the languages of the “Silk Road” peoples — land- and sea-based — that relate to the history of the ancient trade routes.
This post features the tale of Zhang Qian, diplomat and explorer of the “Western Realm” during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (141-87 BCE). The book is in Chinese and Mongolian (traditional script) and forms part of a "Socialist Core Value" (社会主义核心价值观幼儿绘本) picture-book series for children aged 5-6.
To facilitate comparison, the blogger has provided the text in three languages, five scripts: the original Chinese and Inner Mongolian script (vertical); Hanyu Pinyin; Cyrillic Mongolian (used in Mongolia); and a translation of the text into English.
Tainan's National Museum of Taiwan Literature (NMTL) has announced that 49 out of 224 submissions have been shortlisted for the 2019 Taiwan Literature Awards.
Prizes totalling US$106,250 will be awarded.
Eight categories of admissions: Novels, book-length social reportage, short stories/essays, poetry, plays, poetry in Taiwanese, poetry in Hakka and poetry in Chinese by aboriginal writers
For details in Chinese and a PDF of the shortlist in Chinese see here
Click here for book covers and description of content in Chinese.
By Eric Abrahamsen, October 3, '19
Paper Republic has been through several incarnations during our twelve
years of operation – from the early days of translators drinking cheap
beer in Beijing, to the brainstorming session in the back room of the
Beijing Bookworm where we came up with the name “Paper Republic”, to
the first dog-slow Wordpress site. We started off as a place
for translators to talk to each other, and soon transitioned into a
platform for helping people learn about Chinese literature.
Over those twelve years we’ve done a whole lot of different stuff, almost all on a volunteer basis.
Literature database; translation services; thought-provoking blog posts; online
reading; magazine production; literary agency; publishing consulting;
publishing fellowship; literary festivals. At some point we started feeling a little dizzy, and it seemed
increasingly important to regroup a bit according to our original goals:
to bring the best works of Chinese literature into English; to support
emerging translators; and to maintain the internet’s best resource for
We realized that these goals are essentially non-profit in nature, and
that it didn't make much sense to try to run Paper Republic as a regular
company. The solution: to register as a non-profit! More specifically,
as a Charitable Incorporated
Organization, based in the UK.
We set up the charity this year. We have a great group of trustees who oversee what we do and bring us the benefit of their experience, and our management team continues to work on projects, mostly as volunteers. You can see a little more background at
our about page, and meet the gang here. If you’d like to support us via Paypal,
we’d be thrilled.
Meanwhile, a few of our more commercially-oriented projects –
Pathlight magazine, publishing consulting, and literary agency –
will go to a US company we’re calling Coal Hill Books. Feel free to
get in touch if you’d like to know more.
Lastly, if you’re in London, watch this space for an announcement of a
launch party, with wine and books and balloons and all other things
necessary for a literary get-together. We hope you’ll join us and
Well documented piece on how Uyghur — teaching, learning, reading and oral use — is being limited by the State.
Apparently, even compiling Uyghur textbooks that include translations from Chinese sources can be very problematic:
As a recent report from Christian Shepherd of the "Financial Times" notes in explicit detail, the Uyghur education administrator Tashpolat Tiyip and editor Satar Sawut were given suspended death sentences in 2017 for their role in creating Uyghur-language textbooks used in the only Uyghur literature class in the “bilingual” system. They, along with more than 80 other intellectuals, were charged with plotting to “secretly act to split the motherland.” A state-produced film titled "The Plot Inside the Textbooks," which was screened in classrooms across the region, accused them of sourcing much of the content of the curriculum from Uyghur literature rather than Chinese sources. Instead of sourcing 60 percent of the text in Chinese sources and 10 percent from foreign sources and then translating them into Uyghur, they had drawn nearly 60 percent of the content directly from Uyghur sources. Furthermore, using a keyword search, the word “China” had appeared only four times in one elementary school text.
By Bruce Humes, September 26, '19
Fittingly, to celebrate the upcoming 70th anniversary of the birth of the PRC, a list of 70 post-1949 novels—“must-stock” classics for libraries nationwide, apparently — has been drawn up by the People’s Literature Publishing House and Xuexi Publishing House. See here for the Xinhua press release and full list.
Given that about one out of ten PRC citizens is identified on his or her ID card as a member of an ethnic minority, it might be interesting to scan the list for novels that classify as "ethnic fiction," i.e., a loose category (民族题材文学) that includes stories — regardless of the author’s ethnicity — in which non-Han culture, motifs or characters play an important role.
Soon the problems of people like Bright and Butterfly will be too distant, too remote from the cities where most of China's people now live. In winter, you just take bare branches for granted.....
Avtar Singh is a Europe-based writer who formerly lived in Beijing. His latest novel is "Necropolis," set in New Delhi.
Mai Jia on how he deals with being the sole Chinese writer at a literary festival, and answering provocative/humiliating questions from foreign journalists.
Incredibly, PRC film censors insist that HK's Cantonese film scripts must be translated into Mandarin to vet HK films before they can be approved for screening in the Motherland, reports SCMP:
[Film Development Council's] Wong, who took the helm in April this year, said local filmmakers needed to translate a Cantonese script into Mandarin and submit it to Beijing authorities in order to screen Cantonese-speaking movies on the mainland.
Ahmed al-Saeed, CEO of Cairo-based Wisdom House Culture and Media Group, says his company is currently translating Chi Zijian's 《额尔古纳河右岸》into Arabic.
Narrated in the first person by the aged wife of the last chieftain of an Evenki clan, Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸) is a moving tale of the 20th-century decline of reindeer-herding nomads in the sparsely populated, richly forested mountains that border on Russia.
The novel has already appeared in Dutch (Het laatste kwartier van de maan); English (Last Quarter of the Moon); French (Le dernier quartier de
lune); Italian (Ultimo quarto di Luna); Japanese (アルグン川の右岸) ; Korean (《어얼구나 강의 오른쪽》); Spanish (A la orilla derecha del Río Argún) and Swedish (På floden Arguns södra strand).
A How-To guide from FluentU:
1. Weibo Books
2. QiDian Books
3. Amazon Kindle
4. Loyal Books
6. 24 Reader
7. Project Gutenberg
Australian translator and academic Bonnie Suzanne McDougall has won a Special Book Award of China at the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF).
-- McDougall was awarded the prize for her work developing the skills of young Chinese translators overseas as a professor at the University of Sydney, and translating books such as Letters Between Two: Correspondence Between Lu Xun and Xu Guangping (Foreign Languages Press).
-- McDougall was among 12 writers, translators and publishers from around the world to receive the award, which honours international publishing professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of Chinese literature and culture overseas. Over the last 12 years, 123 winners from 49 countries have received the award.
[For a full list of the 2019 recipients see BIBF report or Wikipedia]
Dorothy Tse’s “Cloth Birds”, translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce
Judge’s citation: “‘Cloth Birds’ sustains a compelling tension between highly bureaucratized life and life forms resisting control: a hawker, happy people, branches shooting from tree stumps. Thanks to Natascha Bruce’s light-handed rendition, the poem is strange and ominous, and the narrative it tenuously sketches out stands in sharp contrast with the hard language of city officials and health inspectors.”
Here's the SupChina Book List, 100 books about China across all genres — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and everything in between — ranked from 100 to 1.
According to the 2018 China Online Literature Development Report, in 2018, the number of domestic online literary creators has reached 17.55 million, and the total number of online literary works has reached 24.42 million. A total of 11,168 Chinese online literary works has spread overseas. An increasing number of quality online literature with traditional culture genres continue to excel at overseas markets, enhancing the influence of China’s soft power.
The five winners of the 10th Mao Dun Literature Awards, with info about the authors and summaries of the books:
Chen Yan’s The Protagonist 陈彦《主角》
Li Er’s Professor Ying Wu 李洱《应物兄》
Liang Xiaosheng’s Human World 梁晓声《人世间》
Xu Huaizhong’s Story of Towing the Wind 徐怀中《牵风记》
Xu Zechen’s Northward 徐则臣《北上》
In August 1977, [Taiwan-based] writers Peng Ke (彭歌) and Yu Kuang-chung (余光中) went on the offensive against nativist literature (鄉土文學), accusing the genre’s writers of harboring communist sentiments. This turned the debate political and pushed the nativist literature war toward its high point.
Nativist literature started gaining popularity in the early 1970s and referred to a genre that sought to realistically depict the lives and sentiments of ordinary people in Taiwan, reflecting their daily struggles as well as elements of local culture and society.
Lao She’s epic Teahouse, which recounts the tumultuous first five decades of the 20th century through three generations of a Chinese family, was one of the most hotly anticipated shows at the Avignon festival in southern France.
But the new version of the saga about social injustice, hunger and corruption took a critical bashing with French daily Le Monde comparing its “over-the-top special effects” and live Chinese rap and techno music to something that one might see in a “naff stadium rock opera”.
For anyone organizing a poetry reading or other literary event, this article provides a few tips on what to do (and what not to do) as event organizer. Making the job easier for the interpreter helps ensure the success of the event. Any kind of background information is appreciated. Beginner interpreters, don't forget that you can ask for more information!
Sabina Knight on NPR's On Point program.
Broken Wings goes straight for third-rail issues, too, tackling rural poverty, human trafficking, and family planning policy. It’s a tough read, with frequent scenes of brutality, and no happy ending.
Thinking of Mulan as "Chinese" (Sinitic / Han) is like considering everyone and everything in Eastern Central Asia (ECA) (Uyghurstan / Xinjiang) as "Chinese" (Sinitic / Han), when, before about 1,500 years ago, most people in ECA were Indo-European (Tocharians, Iranians, Indians) and, after that, until quite recently (indeed, even now), most people in ECA are not "Chinese" (Sinitic / Han), but rather Turkic.
Thinking of Mulan as an overtly feminine warrior is also off the mark. Judging from the trailer, there will be plenty of fighting scenes where she looks very much like a woman. But listen to the penultimate quatrain of the ballad, which describes her meeting with her fellow soldiers after she had returned home from the war . . .
There is the romanticized view of Tibet in the West as a gentle, enlightened religious paradise, one now cruelly oppressed under Chinese rule. There is also the opposite view, formerly held by Western imperialists, that Tibet is a backwards, savage place ruled by a corrupt religion. This also overlaps with the official historiographical line in China: that Tibet before Chinese “liberation” was an oppressive feudal society. Tsering Döndrup’s vision works against all of these distorted narratives. We certainly can’t see a romantic or idealized Tibet here (the Western tourists in “Ralo” who hold such views are ridiculed), but nor is it a nightmarish, backward society. It has its (many) problems, to be sure, but his exploration of them is thoughtful and concerned, not polemical.
Waste Tide is both thrilling and thoughtful in its reflection on the environmental and human costs of global capitalism. It is set on Silicon Isle 硅屿, a homophone of Guiyu 贵屿, the real-life capital of electronic waste processing near Chen’s hometown of Shantou, Guangdong. In Silicon Isle, as in the real Guiyu, migrant workers toil in hazardous conditions to sort and recycle the remains of our smartphones, computers, and other electronics. Chen describes the scene in heartbreaking detail:
By David Haysom, July 3, '19
My Tenantless Body (我空出来的身体), a bilingual edition of 余幼幼 Yu Yoyo’s poetry, is available now from the Poetry Translation Centre, and this month Yu is touring the UK together with translators A.K. Blakemore and Dave Haysom:
Wednesday 3 July: Coalesce at Rich Mix, London
Thursday 4 July: Young Voices in Contemporary Chinese Poetry, Centre for New and International Writing, University of Liverpool
Sunday 7 July: Yu Yoyo and A.K. Blakemore at Ledbury Poetry Festival
Tuesday 9 July: Poetry Translation Centre Workshop on Xiao An, London
Thursday 11 July: Parallel Annotations, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
Friday 12 July: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester
Saturday 13 July: Poetry Translation Centre Workshop in Manchester
Monday 15 July: New in Translation: Poetry and Fiction in China at the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing
More details at the Poetry Translation Centre website
By Dylan Levi King, June 11, '19
Digging into Paper Republic's archives, there's plenty of discussion of Jia Pingwa—when is he going to make it into translation? What the hell is going on?
Since 2016, five of Jia's novels have been translated, we might see two more before the end of the year, and at least three more are on the way.
The crop of Jia Pingwa books in translation have mostly been harvested from the author’s more recent works, but The Earthen Gate 土门, is the book that returned Jia to grace after the dark days that followed the ban of Ruined City 废都 in the early-1990s.
I’ve always thought that Ruined City and the three books that followed—White Nights 白夜, The Earthen Gate, and Old Gao Village 高老庄—were Jia’s best, so it’s nice to see that two have finally made it into English. The University of Oklahoma Press put out Howard Goldblatt’s translation of Ruined City in 2016, and Valley Press commissioned Hu Zongfeng 胡宗锋 of Northwest University 西北大学 to translate The Earthen Gate.
The Nuosu people, who were once overlords of vast tracts of farmland and forest in the uplands of southern Sichuan and neighboring provinces, are the largest division of the Yi ethnic group in southwest China. Their creation epic plots the origins of the cosmos, the sky and earth, and the living beings of land and water. This translation is a rare example in English of Indigenous ethnic literature from China.
Translated by Mark Bender and Aku Wuwu
Beijing Jinjiang Networking Technology Co. was put under investigation by local authorities on Thursday for allegedly disseminating obscene information, China News Service reported last week. China Literature holds 50% of Beijing Jinjiang, according to its annual report. The Shanghai city government had ordered China Literature to clean up another website earlier that week, after it was found of spreading “vulgar and pornographic” information.
. . . there is one tricky (but very enjoyable) challenge with Tsering Döndrup’s work, and that is his tendency to use Chinese words and phrases in his fiction. Many Tibetan authors avoid this for a variety of reasons, but Tsering Döndrup is quite unique in his desire to bring this issue of language to the fore in his writing. He wants to highlight the effect that Mandarin is having on modern Tibetan, especially the fact that many Tibetans have little choice but to experience many aspects of life in modern China through Chinese. In some of his recent work he has used Chinese characters [ed. hanzi] directly in the text. In the stories in this volume, however, he renders them phonetically in Tibetan. These spellings (Tibetan has an alphabetical writing system) are of his own invention, and to all intents and purposes they come across as gibberish (imagine making up your own spellings of Chinese words in an English short story). I specialize in Chinese literature, and I still couldn’t figure out what some of the words were on my own, even when he included a Tibetan translation in parentheses.
By Helen Wang, May 31, '19
Translating Chinese Poetry - workshop with JOHN MINFORD, Univ of Exeter, 26-27 June - Free, but must register - contact Dr Yue Zhuang ( Y dot Zhuang at exeter.ac.uk)
Two Lines Press is “currently working on a special project collecting translated fiction by contemporary Chinese-language writers (not restricted to mainland China). We’re calling on Chinese–English translators to submit fiction that explores alternate worlds, using elements of mythology and folklore, magical realism, and/or surrealism. In particular, we’re interested in seeing how authors are using these elements to address issues such as rapid urbanization, female sexuality, gender, climate change, etc. As always, we’re looking first and foremost for exceptional, dynamic works of literature, translated expertly into English.”
Award-winning Chinese-to-English translator Nicky Harman discusses the process of translating language as well as violence in literature with her latest translation of Jia Pingwa’s Broken Wings.
New audiobook imprint, Silk Gauze Audio, has published an audiobook of Rickshaw Boy by Lao She. The Howard Goldblatt translation of Camel Xiangzi (骆驼祥子) is narrated by Jason Wong. An accompanying ebook contains a glossary of all the text’s Chinese names in characters/pinyin and new annotations. Recordings of two Lao She short stories, translated by Don J. Cohn, are also currently available for free on the imprint website: https://www.silkgauzeaudio.com.
-- Silk Gauze Audio founder, Nicola Clayton, is an award-winning audiobook producer and graduate of Modern Chinese Studies (Leeds University).
“Over the next few years, Penguin Random House SEA aims to build a catalogue of about 500 titles. While the titles it is publishing so far are in English, it is also looking into translating works in other languages.”
Welcome to etvo’s inaugural post on random translation musings, in which I share some thoughts on possible best practices and reflections after two years of webnovel translations.
Conference scheduled to be held at NYU Global Studies Center, Prague: 17-19 October 2019
Applications should consist of a title, three-hundred word proposal, and one-page CV, due on May 31, 2019. Accommodations will be available for participants and some funds may be possible for travel assistance within continental Europe.
Possible topics include:
The reception history of expurgated, bowderlized, and censored texts
- Textual histories of self-censored texts and later full republication
*Publishing, marketing, and openly advertising censored texts
And more. . .
By Dylan Levi King, May 3, '19
I've got a Twitter timeline full of 5G hysteria, Huawei backdoors, GitHub protests against the tech sector practice of 996 working hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week), the UAE running a drone war in Libya with Chinese tech, a Chinese developer getting nabbed for leaking a wildcard SSL key, Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States pressuring the Kunlun Group to sell Grindr, etc. etc. etc.—the world runs on but seems deeply anxious about Chinese tech.
That makes Pang Bei's Unicorn, a cautionary fable set in the present day Shenzhen tech world, very timely.
Review of Yan Ge's White Horse by Chitralekha Basu: "Told from the point of view of a 10-year-old girl, it is a story in which adults make a mess of their lives and let it all hang out. In certain ways White Horse could be a precursor to The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, in which a teenage girl in a mental health facility imagines the excesses her middle-aged father and his siblings — inheritors of a chilli paste manufacturing enterprise in Sichuan — are indulging in. In both stories, dark family secrets tumble out of cupboards, rupturing the clan’s foundations. However, while The Chilli Bean Paste Clan is unsparing in exposing the sordid inter-personal relationships between the members of a dysfunctional family, White Horse is more tender — observing, as it were, the complicated, irredeemable world of grown-ups from a distance."
White Horse is published by HopeRoad Publishing.
“I don’t have sales or publication figures at my disposal so this may not be the full picture, but it certainly feels as if there is a larger conversation happening around Chinese literature,” says Jeremy Tiang, an author and Chan Ho-kei’s translator. Tiang is also the managing editor of Pathlight, an English-language literary magazine focused on new writing from China.
“Part of this may be China’s increasing influence on the world stage. It may also be down to publishers waking up to the variety of Chinese literature available — moving beyond the big names and seeking out hidden gems such as Wu Ming-Yi (The Stolen Bicycle, translated by Darryl Sterk). There are also more agents working with Chinese writers.”
“The act of subtitling lets you appreciate a film in a way that you would never get by simply watching it. You have to watch it at least three times, and you also have to empathise with every single character in order to effectively translate what they’re saying. So by the time you deliver your subtitles, you have already spent several days with these characters, getting to know them. You are so much more invested in it – as long as the film is a good one. If the film is substandard, then you are trapped in the company of these awful characters, and still forced to empathise with their terrible decisions!”
By Eric Abrahamsen, April 24, '19
The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia administers the Freeman Book Award, given to a children's or young adult book from or about an Asian countries, which has potential to be used in an educational setting. Books must be in or translated into English, and published in the US in the past year. The next submissions deadline is August 31st, 2019.
See this link for details.
By Dylan Levi King, April 19, '19
This is the record of a few days spent with Jia Pingwa and Nicky Harman in Xi'an and environs, as we prepare a translation of Jia's Qinqiang for AmazonCrossing.
I’d already spent the last several days with Jia Pingwa, hanging out in Xi’an and going down to the countryside, but, sitting at a table with the author one night at in Sichuan restaurant off the Second Ring Road in Xi’an, I was dying to do what I’m sure many people have already done: tell him how I first came to read Ruined City.
I think I wanted his approval, to prove to him that I was connected to his works or that I could understand it and that I was the right person to translate it, even if that decision was no longer in his hands.